BACK IN BUSINESS: Michael Bridges, third from left, trains with the Jets at Ray Watt Oval yesterday. Picture: Darren PatemanJETS veteran Michael Bridges spent the off-season playing exhibition games in south-east Asia alongside former English Premier League stars Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Dennis Wise and Andy Cole.
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Tonight it is back to reality for the 34-year-old striker as the Jets open their pre-season campaign with a low-key trial against “park” team Plattsburg-Maryland at Ulinga Park.

“It was an EPL legends tour, so I’m not sure what I was doing there, but it was great to catch up with the lads and play a few games as well,” Bridges said.

“We had a six-a-side tournament in Malaysia and then flew to Jakarta for an exhibition game.

“I was over there for a week and then went back with my family and did some stuff on television for 14 days.

“I had a good time, but that was in May. It’s back to business now. The body is feeling good, but it is my 17th or 18th pre-season now.”

The Jets will field a bare-bones outfit. Andrew Hoole, Adam Taggart, Connor Chapman and Josh Brillante are in Turkey with the Young Socceroos, Emile Heskey is not due back until August 1, Ruben Zadkovich has a tight hamstring, James Brown had ankle surgery yesterday and Ben Kennedy and Josh Mitchell are on the comeback from surgery.

Bridges will play in between Joey Gibbs and Craig Goodwin at the pointy end of a 3-4-3 formation.

Plattsburg-Maryland are in sixth place in Zone Premier League, the third tier of Newcastle football, and should provide little more than a training run for the Jets, despite the absentees.

“We are not kidding ourselves; they are so much better than us,” said Plattsburg player-coach Mal Hinchliffe, who spent a decade playing in Germany.

“We will field our strongest team and try to hold the fort as long as we can.”

Hinchliffe said he would be happy to keep the Jets’ score to single figures.

“I don’t have a defensive frame of mind, but I’d like to keep a zero against our name as long as possible, stay compact, stay behind the ball and try and catch them on the break.”

The match, which kicks off at 6.30pm, is the first the Jets have played against a team in a division lower than the State League.

“You read a lot of negative things in the forums, saying, ‘What are Plattsburg going to do against the Jets. They are no chance,”‘ Hinchliffe said.

“I think people are forgetting the big picture. It is about the Jets getting out in the community, promoting the team and getting membership numbers up.

“We are just stoked to have the opportunity to play them, as I’m sure the State League clubs are.”

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